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Sexually Transmitted Infections and Safety
Sexually transmitted diseases, or STIs, run rampant among teenagers and young adults. 50% of reported STI patients in the United States of America are under the age of 25-years-old. Furthermore, approximately 25% of teens will have an STI before they graduate high school.
Sex has been glorified in pop culture (music, television, and movies). With online dating and a freer sex culture, STI’s are on the rise.
Parents often shy away from talking to their teenagers about sex – it can often be a difficult and awkward conversation to have. Most commonly, if it does come up in conversation, the topic of sexually transmitted infections typically gets drowned out by “Please don’t get pregnant”.
However, instead of making sex a taboo subject, we must provide reliable resources to teenagers. Sexual health is an integral part of life, and STIs can result in extreme damage to your child’s reproductive system.
Sexually transmitted infections can be spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex and can either be symptomatic or asymptomatic. Regardless, if untreated, it can cause severe complications and pose a threat to spreading to other sexual partners.
By opening a comfortable and honest conversation early, you can help to prevent your child from contracting an STI. In the event your child does get an STI, you can hopefully help them to get early treatment to avoid further complications. If you aren’t comfortable having an open conversation with your child, encourage them to be honest with their doctor to ensure that they have somebody that can assist them with their sexual health.
When you’re ready to start the conversation, here are some crucial facts that you must discuss.
- The only way to avoid STIs is abstinence.
- If your teenager decides to engage in sexual behaviour, proper use of condoms is the best technique for preventing infection.
- Knowledge of appropriate condom use is essential. Condoms that are old, tampered with or improperly used can be ineffective.
- A condom should be worn until a monogamous relationship is agreed upon.
- There are prescription medications that can be taken after potential exposure to STIs.
- Young women are biologically more prone to sexually transmitted infections.
- Some strains of HPV can lead to cervical cancer.
- STIs can cause PID in women and epididymitis in men – ultimately leading to infertility if untreated.
- AIDS is a leading cause of death in 15-24-year-olds.
- Not all STIs are curable. For example, genital herpes cannot be cured. However, you can treat symptoms and prevent outbreaks.
- Some STIs are asymptomatic (or don’t have symptoms).
- If you become infected with an STI, early treatment is imperative.
- Depending on their sexual history, the doctor will recommend routine testing. Carefully follow their recommended testing schedule to ensure early detection.
- Doctors must keep their consensual sexual history confidential (They can speak openly with their doctor without fear of it getting back to you).
- It is a criminal offence to spread STIs carelessly and knowingly. If they are infected, it’s essential to refrain from sex or be honest with your sexual partner.
- Despite what society says, STI’s are nothing to be ashamed fo. Get treatment and be safe.
- Chlamydia: Bacterial STI that is often asymptomatic. Easily curable. Can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
- Genital herpes (HSV): Viral infection that causes blisters and ulcers in the genital area. Can be treated but not cured. Can still be spread with proper condom use.
- Genital warts (HPV): Virus (called Human Papilloma Virus) that causes warts in the genital area. Can be treated but not cured. Can still be spread with proper condom use.
- Gonorrhea: A curable bacterial STI (caused by Neisseria gonorrhea). Women are less likely to have symptoms than men.
- HIV: Virus that attacks the immune system. Weakens the ability to fight other infections. Early treatment can keep the immune system strong. Can progress into AIDS.
- Syphilis: Bacterial STI. When untreated, can have serious health complications.
- Trichomoniasis: Caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Can be cured with antibiotics.
There are other STIs and STDs that were not mentioned above. However, these are the most common — the most highly reported of them being Human Papilloma Virus, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhoea.
The best way to prevent STIs is to be knowledgable about their presence. By opening lines of communication with children, they can be better aware of how to avoid them.
Written by Celina Dawdy